Illustrators Ireland: Show and Tell

November 25, 2015 – Culture

Show & Tell Interviews: Mags Suggs of Illustrators Ireland

Illustrators Ireland was established around the turn of the century, giving illustrators something to rally around together, to look out for each other and to promote one another’s work. Mags Suggs, the guild’s Promotions Officer, says it started out as a kind of ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ for illustrators. At the time, the people involved were largely male, largely into political or editorial illustration, and were largely working for newspapers and magazines in the national press. Since then, however, it has blossomed into an organisation of about 80 members, drawn from across the whole field of professional illustration.

“They came around at a really good time”, says Suggs. “In the last 8 years or so, illustration has taken on a life of its own”, standing out as a discipline in its own right alongside graphic design and photography.

The organisation serves, among other things, to make individual members aware of the going rate for pieces of work, more aware of the work people were doing in the same general area. “We as illustrators need to stop undercutting each other’s work, to stop undercutting each other”. Such is the isolated nature of much creative work that one can easily finish a piece and think “I can’t charge that much for an illustration”. Within the organisation, operating email threads and trying to foster a sense of community, people can figure out what a ballpark figure should look like. It can be hard for art directors to credit paying a certain price for a piece of work when “that took you five minutes”, not seeing the talent of the artist, their training and their non-apparent costs. But they should.

Illustrators Ireland is also a member of the Illustrators Forum, a Europe-wide organisation doing for European illustration what they themselves are doing for that in Ireland. It’s more important than ever to be part of an international community, not least one as varied as the current scene in Europe. The existence of the internet has for one thing “made us pull our socks up”, looking outwards to the sterling work being done by contemporaries elsewhere, for example in Latvia, where there is a glut of high-quality work being produced. The internet has led to the opening of the eyes of an Irish profession who in the past may have tended to be a little insular and inward looking, not paying attention to the quality and quantity of work being done around the world.
Of course, a key component of the guild’s work is necessarily to get members’ work viewed.

Next Saturday (Nov 28th), they appear at our own Show & Tell conference in Smock Alley.